Angelology, Satanology, & Dualism

The conflict between good and evil in the world is pervasive and undeniable. Its effects have been observed and contemplated by people all throughout history. Because there are many other fundamental opposites in the universe, a dualistic philosophy may be a very logical arrival. While much of our existence does in theory seem dualistic, good and evil are not quite that simple. This arises mainly from the fact that “good” and “evil” are not merely cosmic forces.

Ethico-religious dualism is the idea of the universe containing two entities of force or being that are essentially equal in power and opposite in nature. In other words, it represents the philosophy of an all-encompassing good versus evil. One example is a variation on traditional Christianity that presents God and Satan as forces, or even persons, that have always existed in contradiction to each other. They would be moral opposites and, in a sense, metaphysical equals. In contrast, traditional Christianity views God as existing before and above Satan. This is the biblical position.

God, while obviously limited by His nature, (logically by the law of non-contradiction) is otherwise omnipotent. (Matthew 19:26, Genesis 17:1, Job 42:2, Jeremiah 32:17, Luke 1:37, Revelation 19:6) God defines holiness and truth. His very person defines what we know to be “good.” He organizes the movement and action of goodness. On the other hand, “evil” can be defined as anything which is contrary to goodness, and thus anything which is contrary to the nature of God. Satan organizes the movement and action of evil.

The ruler (or prince or king) of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 seems to refer to the person we call Satan. The passage indicates that prior to rebelling out of pride he was a cherub who was created by God in Eden and was beautifully adorned (28:13). This means that he has not existed as long as God, and is subservient to God. Also notable is that God’s existence is not dependent upon Satan’s, as some dualistic views may suggest.

Isaiah 14:12 speaks of a morning star, or day star, which has been translated into the Latin Lucifer meaning “light bearer” which may have referred to what we now know as Venus. The verse exclaims “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star…!” and some believe it refers to Satan. While Satan probably had a role in the corruption, the context seems to point towards a Babylonian King. On the other hand, the amount of information regarding the name Lucifer is, personally, inadequate to make a definite conclusion. My belief may conflict somewhat with mainstream theologians on this issue. However, I also believe that whether or not Satan was called Lucifer is a menial disagreement with little or no consequence. What is said about Lucifer in Isaiah 14 certainly coincides with what we know about Satan, and the theme of the passage remains relevant and unchanged either way.

Some may posit that because God created Satan, God created evil. However, Ezekiel 28 is clear that God created a glorious cherub who was a “signet of perfection…blameless…” until he sinned (28:12-16). This indicates a voluntary act on the part of Satan to go against the righteousness of God.

Satan is not equal in power to God, and is still subject to God’s authority. The narrative of Job illustrates this truth in a very straightforward way. Satan required God’s permission to oppress Job as he did. Furthermore, we see that Satan is neither omniscient (he was wrong about Job) nor is he omnipresent. (Job 1:6-12)

The reality of Satan and the power that he does have may seem to warrant an excuse for sin. One may wish to blame Satan for every time temptation leads to sin. This is unacceptable. Though Satan can tempt even Christ (Matthew 4, Luke 4) it is ultimately the decision of human will to sin or not. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Also, the bible teaches that everyone’s sin is comprehensive and condemning (Romans 3:23, James 2:10).

While dualism may be attractive, look perfectly logical, and even seem to fit in with Christianity, it falls short. Scripture offers the teaching of a goodness which precedes and overpowers that which opposes Him. We may be assured and comforted in this fact, knowing that justice will prevail and evil will be eradicated for eternity.